3 Main Changes to Help Fill College Classrooms

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Federal, state, local, and private officials are unveiling new programs that could reduce the costs associated with higher-education in a strong effort to fill college classrooms and lecture halls and educate the next generations of employees.

Curtailing the amount of paperwork required from students and their families could make federal loans more accessible to more individuals. And some pundits predict the national election may portend a big alteration in the United States' approach to higher education.

Here are three major shifts occurring in the Unites States and how they may grow class size at public and private universities and colleges.

Simplified FAFSA:

Although it does not include 2021 income – which in some families' cases was hit hard by Covid-19 – the newly simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is easier to complete, discharged some federal loans provided to historically Black colleges and universities for campus improvements, expanded Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated people who wish to study, and extended the Pell Grant program for low-income college students.

Faculty and staff should encourage students to complete FAFSA as soon as possible, experts said.

“As 2021 gets started and people ramp up thinking about school and how to save, the earlier the better,” Charlie Javice, Chief Executive and Founder of Frank,  a business aimed at making college more affordable, told 1010 WINS this week. “It’s just really important that students complete FAFSA, and do it as soon as possible, to not leave money on the table.”

Reducing Tuition:

Southern New Hampshire University last month announced it will cut the cost of its Fall 2021 campus-based programs to $15,000 or $10,000 per year and use "an increased focus on experiential and project-based learning; a new and more transparent financial aid process, shifting from merit-based to need-based financial aid awards to level the playing field for all students."

This marks more than a 50% reduction of its fees, according to SNHU. The university also plans to increase its on-site campus enrollment to 4,500 students from 3,000, although it did not say how or if it expects to adapt faculty or administrative staffing.

SNHU is not alone in addressing tuition to encourage people to attend their schools. Fairleigh Dickinson dropped its price to $32,000 – down about one-fourth from 2020-21 costs of $42,650. Meanwhile, Spring Hill, Ala.; Houghton College and Goldey-Beacom halved tuition costs, according to a recent Forbes report. William Jewell also reduced its tuition price by 45%. Others that cut tuition include Gordon College (-34%); Hendrix (-32%); Rider (-22%); Seattle Pacific (-25%); University of Lynchburg (-18%), and Willliamette (-18%), according to Forbes.

Federal Loan Uncertainty:

In December, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the extension of the federal student loan administrative forbearance period through Jan. 31, 2021. It is, of course, unknown what the next head of the education department will do, once President-Elect Joe Biden takes office: Some members of the Democrat Party have called for loan-forgiveness for all student debt, a cause Biden has not taken up. Nor is the Department of Education able to give future guidance on those students seeking loans for the 2021-22 year and beyond until the next administration.

The Biden Plan for Education Beyond High School would limit borrowers in Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans to 5% of income over $25,000 versus today's rate of 10% to 20% of their income over the federal poverty line. In addition, Biden's plan would not require monthly payments and would not include interest accrual for individuals making less than $25,000 annually.

Another feature of Biden's plan is the concept of reducing the need for student loans by making public colleges and universities tuition-free. While taxpayers would absorb tuition and related costs, students would pick up expenses like room and board, according to this program.

Work-study programs also are included.

"Biden will work to reform federal work study programs to ensure that more of these funds place students in roles where they are either learning skills valuable for their intended careers, or contributing to their communities by mentoring students in K-12 classrooms and community centers," the plan states.